GREENWALD: On several occasions, you have used the word “coup” to describe this impeachment process against President Dilma. The Brazilian Constitution explicitly allows for the possibility of impeachment. And this process is being conducted under the authority of the Supreme Court, with 11 members: eight appointed by PT, three by yourself and another five by President Dilma. And this court has ruled several important decisions in your favor. How could this process be called a coup?
DA SILVA: It has also ruled against us many times. Let me tell you …
GREENWALD: Every court does that. But how can it be a coup when it is happening under the authority of a court?
DA SILVA: I’ll tell you why it is a coup. It is a coup because while the Brazilian Constitution allows for an impeachment, it is necessary for the person to have committed what we call high crimes and misdemeanors. And President Dilma did not commit a high crime or a misdemeanor. Therefore, what is happening is an attempt by some to take power by disrespecting the popular vote.
Anyone has the right to want to become president, anyone. They just have to run. I lost three elections — three! I didn’t take any shortcuts. I waited 12 years to become president. Anyone who wants to become president, instead of trying to take down the president, can run in an election. I ran three of them and didn’t get angry.
That’s why I think the impeachment is illegal. There is no high crime or misdemeanor. As a matter of fact, I believe that these people want to remove Dilma from office by disrespecting the law. Carrying out, the way I see it, a political coup. That’s what it is: a political coup.
GREENWALD: They can’t win the election. I want to ask: The PT requested the impeachment of the three presidents that came before you. Do you believe that those three presidents were involved in high crimes and misdemeanors that justified an impeachment?
DA SILVA: No. PT requested the impeachment of Collor and it went through because he had committed high crimes and misdemeanors. With Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the Chamber of Deputies didn’t accept the request. So it died then and there. Maybe because there weren’t high crimes and misdemeanors. Now, this impeachment request could’ve been denied too.
Why was it requested? Why did they open the process and send it to the commission? Because the president of the chamber was angered that PT didn’t vote with him in the Ethics Committee and he decided to get back at PT by trying to manufacture the impeachment of President Dilma, which I see as a gigantic abuse in this political scenario.
Meeting for presidential elections in São Bernardo do Campo circa 1989. Photo: Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
GREENWALD: I want to ask about Eduardo Cunha, the president of the Chamber of Deputies. The evidence of him being involved in corruption is overwhelming. They discovered his Swiss bank accounts with millions of dollars he can’t explain. He clearly lied to Congress when he denied having offshore bank accounts. How can one explain to foreigners — and to Brazilians — how such a corrupt politician can not only remain a leader of the National Congress, but also spearhead the impeachment process against the president?
DA SILVA: What’s even graver is how the press treats him with normalcy, and doesn’t treat Dilma that way. In truth, Dilma is being judged by people who have been accused of crimes. And she hasn’t got a single accusation against her. The accusation against her is one of budgetary impropriety. And this accusation isn’t a crime and her budget hasn’t even been reviewed by the National Congress.
GREENWALD: Explain that to me, because I think there are many foreigners who can’t understand it.
DA SILVA: There is no explanation apart from some people in this country being insane. The National Congress could show some self-respect by taking into account that they are in no political condition to carry Dilma’s trial as they have. Eduardo Cunha doesn’t have the respectability, not from Congress, nor from society, to spearhead this. But it is going on, sometimes even under protection by some sectors of the national media, which I believe is very serious.
What worries me most in all of this is that Brazil has only 31 years of democracy. It has been our longest period of uninterrupted democracy. And what we are doing right now is trying to play with democracy. And we shouldn’t play with democracy, because every time we play with democracy, every time we deny politics, what comes after is worse.